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USA 5 - 1 Scotland: US take a sledgehammer to Scotland’s credibility

Published on Monday 28 May 2012 03:19

SO, United States 5, Scotland 1, also known as “how to turn a meaningless friendly into a meaningful one in 90 miserable minutes”.

Impossible now to dismiss this match as an irrelevance, despite the low-key build up. Should teams with serious pretensions ever look this poor, ever lose this heavily, against opponents at least one level below the international elite?

This was a jarring, disturbing end to a season that had not delivered qualification for Euro 2012 but had at least provided one or two hints that Craig Levein’s squad might be capable of mounting a credible challenge for a berth at the 2014 World Cup.

To write off the outcome as a one-off, fluke event would bring comfort but also deserve accusations of naivety. This evisceration must call any previous positive assumptions about Scotland’s squad depth and potential into question. All involved face a summer of stewing over the poverty of the performance until the next game, the friendly with Australia in August that is a warm-up for the qualifying double-header against Serbia and Macedonia in September. At least the nightmares might have stopped by then.

You could tell which set of players were motivated by a desire to secure their spots for two upcoming World Cup qualifiers and a prestigious friendly against Brazil and which group knew this was their last game of a long season and nothing critical was at stake.

Still, onlookers might have wondered whether Scotland’s time in Orlando last week had been spent on the training pitch or in Walt Disney World.

The fixture’s timing in the middle of the Major League Soccer season, the heat, a boisterous home crowd in excess of 44,000 and 11 missing players, including Darren Fletcher, Charlie Adam, Alan Hutton and James Morrison, could all be cited as mitigating circumstances. However, five goals did not flatter the United States – and they were without the injured Clint Dempsey, the Fulham forward who has become one of Europe’s most prolific goalscorers.

Nor can Scotland take any solace from their strike, since it was a donation from a US defender, Geoff Cameron. Kenny Miller was the only visiting player in the Sunshine State who did not appear under some sort of cloud. It should be said that a US team featuring the Rangers duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu were impressive and look a coming force under Juergen Klinsmann’s management. They defeated Italy in Genoa in February and this was their fifth successive win.

The former Germany forward had demanded his players add offensive threat to their defensive solidity and they obeyed in spades on Saturday night, abetted by Scotland’s porous midfield and ponderous defence. “It was really fun to watch,” Klinsmann said, satisfied at the “fast-paced game” his charges had delivered.

Landon Donovan scored after three minutes, profiting from Phil Bardsley’s slackness to beat Allan McGregor on the rebound after the goalkeeper had saved his first attempt. Michael Bradley’s superb long-range strike into the top corner doubled the lead eight minutes later and the pattern was set, with the US threatening from every attack in every sector of the final third. Jose Torres nudged the crossbar with a quickly-taken free kick.

Yet Scotland were only a goal behind at the break after Miller headed a deep Bardsley pass by the right back across goal and a panicked Cameron put the ball into his own net under little pressure with 15 minutes gone.

Levein’s men finished the first half and began the second reasonably well, but the appearance that they might be able to get something from the game was revealed as an illusion. They caved mentally and physically once Donovan was allowed room to guide a low shot past McGregor with an hour gone. The Los Angeles Galaxy forward claimed his hat-trick and confirmed victory five minutes later with a precise diagonal shot from a tricky angle. He also hit a post after a careering dribble that left Gary Caldwell flagging and flailing.

The fifth came with 20 minutes left as Donovan crossed cutely for Jermaine Jones, who was given far too much space to head beyond the goalkeeper. The home side eased off after that and Scotland fashioned a couple of half-chances, but they carried scant threat all night despite Miller’s workrate.

Matt Phillips’ debut, eagerly awaited by Levein, was underwhelming. The Blackpool winger, who switched his allegiance after representing England at junior levels, had few chances to show his speed. His display was most notable for defensive dereliction that left Bardsley exposed. No member of the back line was able to suppress the US’s fast, slick and physical approach play and Andy Webster was especially unsteady on his first Scotland appearance in more than two years.

Shaun Maloney, who last turned out for the team in November, 2010, cut an isolated and irrelevant figure on the left wing.

And so the season had the unhappiest of endings. Even in fixtures where there is little to gain, there is always something to lose. In this case, perhaps, confidence and credibility. No doubt it was an educational experience for Levein, but no manager wants to learn that his fringe players might not be good enough.

United States: Howard (Guzan 71), Cherundolo, Cameron, Bocanegra (Onyewu 63), Johnson (Castillo 72), Edu (Beckerman 64), Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Boyd (Gomez 64), Torres (Corona 68). Sub not used: Wondolowski.

Scotland: McGregor, Bardsley (Martin 59), Caldwell, Webster (Berra 82), Mulgrew 4 (Wallace 4), McArthur (Whittaker, 59 4), Phillips, Brown, Bannan (Cowie 51), Maloney (Mackail-Smith 83), Miller. Subs not used: Gordon, Russell, Bryson, Gilks.

Taken from the Scotsman

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